Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Stevie Joe and Acetaminophen

A advisory committee of the FDA has issued a couple of recommendations regarding acetaminophen (the key ingredient in Tylenol). First, they suggest reducing the recommended dosage in over-the-counter preparations. Second, they recommend taking drugs that combine acetaminophen with a narcotic, such as Vicodin and Percocet, off of the market altogether.

The committee correctly points out that overdoses of acetaminophen can cause damage to the liver. This damage can be fatal. However, the committee did not appear to address alternatives to these products. Ibuprofen, naproxen sodium, and ketorolac all have similar problems. Large doses or extended use of all of these can cause liver damage and carry other risks as well.

Removing products like Vicodin from the market raises other concerns. The acetaminophen in these products acts as a potentiator. That is, it increases the effects of the narcotic. So, if consumers can no longer take Vicodin or Percocet, they might need to switch to a product that contains an even greater narcotic dose to get the same effect.

Two advantages often cited for products like Vicodin and Percocet is that they allow the patient to get pain relief with a lower narcotic dose and that they are less susceptible to abuse. Folks who abuse drugs aren't too keen on taking large doses of these because they know that they will fry their liver. Drugs like OxyContin that have no potentiator are much more popular drugs to abuse.

Of course, the biggest fear is that some folks will just have to live in pain. It seems that the muckety-mucks don't care too much about that.

Not FDA-approved,
Stevie Joe Parker